For the first time since the Great Depression, a majority of young adults are living with their parents. This week, guest Pauser and licensed clinical social worker Meredith Resnick shares insights from her new book Stop Counting the Hours: Stop Enabling. Start Living
What happens when your adult child has moved home, whether temporarily or permanently, and you begin to observe aspects of their behavior or lifestyle that trouble you?
It’s a difficult predicament. The move back to your home may be temporary. Maybe it’s permanent, something you offered or agreed to — or felt guilty refusing. On the other hand, maybe you looked forward to spending time with your adult child. Regardless of why, you’ve landed in the tough spot of concern, worry or dislike of the behavior you see in the adult you love.
Even worse, you may be beginning to feel stuck, wishing you could unsee what you saw. What should you do?
While it may seem obvious, the first step is coming to terms with what you are seeing, be it drinking or video games or laziness or anything else that would range from unlikeable to concerning in someone else. You need to accept that, yes, what you see is actually happening and that also, it is out of your control to make the behavior stop. You can’t singlehandedly change someone else’s behavior, especially another adult’s.
Second, consider a shift in perspective, from adult-to-adult rather than parent-to-child. This shift in perspective can give the relationship needed equality within your own mind. This equality will inform how you approach the situation and help you determine what, if anything, you want to do.
Third, recognize that what matters here is what is going on inside you. If your adult child’s behavior bothers you, it does not necessarily mean you are overly critical or controlling. Understanding what bothers you and what you are capable of living with does matter — and will impact the integrity of your relationships both with yourself and with your child. Since you live with yourself 24/7, and how you relate to yourself influences your interactions with your child, start with yourself first.
Fourth, recognize that beneath the worry and anxiety — and deeper than the annoyance and anger — is grief. It’s hard to see someone you love exhibiting unhealthy patterns and there is grief in realizing that, as well as a type of mourning that needs to occur.
In the end, you may decide to speak to your adult child about the circumstances that worry or bother you. And you may have to decide whether they can stay or go. But first, accept what is acceptable to you and what is not — and mourn what is not. And from there you’ll make the decisions that are right for you and your family.
For a Pause
Remember that you do not have to “know” how to fix the immediate problem.
Become curious about your discomfort and what it means to you. If you don’t agree with what you see, can you identify why beyond what causes anxiety or fear? Is there sadness? Explore that.
Notice your feelings: anxiety, tension, sadness, worry, relief. Identify, respect them and let them run their course. Try to not react on an impulse or feeling but notice it and let it help you determine what you can and cannot live with, and why. Notice what gets stirred up or calmed down inside you. It might be that very discomfort means you need to seek support just for you and that you deserve the attention and care.
Remember that letting go can refer to letting go of a person or the outcome you desired. It can also mean letting go of an old way of being.
One More Thing: A Moving Meditation
Today I take small steps to educate myself about me.
I will practice curiosity and try to be objective about what I learn. I think I know myself, but I can be sure there is far more to me waiting to be discovered. When I hear that life is a journey I can take it to mean the journey within. What lies within me is deep and fascinating. I have learned to be so preoccupied with “doing” that I have missed seeing the breadth of what is within me.
Today I slow down.
I notice something as simple and natural as my breathing. I look in the mirror at my own eyes. I stare at my hands, at my penmanship or drawing; I notice how I arrange food on my plate. All these seemingly simple things slow me down enough to take myself in, to notice facets of myself. I will give myself time to absorb what I discover through these acts; I return to them as a form of moving meditation. I will observe myself. I may feel silly or ashamed or I may love these exercises. Whatever I feel I’ll be curious.
As I take in myself, I can begin to ask myself about the things that hook me and prevent me from living my life, from being in line with myself.
As I change my own world and outlook, I may begin to see, with my newfound clarity, solutions that surprise me. Perhaps what my child does is okay for them. Perhaps my child will change, perhaps not. Perhaps I’ll see their approach in a new light as well.
The more I respect my own individual process, the more inside me I have to respect my child’s process as well.
Today I am curious about my own needs and feelings, my own goals for myself separate and distinct from anyone else.
Meredith Resnick is a writer, editor and licensed social worker. Learn more about her here.
I always feel like somebody's watching me
And I have no privacy.
— Somebody's Watching Me, Rockwell